The Dog in the Library: Glimpses at Beatitudes
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
The problem of applying our rational intelligence to faith in God (and correspondently to faith in life itself) is one that has occupied an overwhelmingly burdensome amount of human effort. The fact that no one has ever ‘solved’ the question as to the meaning of life by rational means – nor will anyone ever – apparently does not stop countless men and women from trying. It would be better to admit that rationality, as a tool, is not up to the task. And when we consider our crazy situation, hatched and dispatched as organic beings in and out of a world where we cannot understand infinite time nor infinite space, only an idiot would even attempt to ‘prove’ the existence of God by means of their feeble brain.
But what we cannot understand by direct reasoning, we can, in fact, understand by metaphor. E.F. Schumacher, famous for his book Small is Beautiful, wrote a far more meaningful book entitled A Guide for the Perplexed. He made no claim that his book was at all ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’, but he did in fact demonstrate a hierarchy of ‘beings’ in the universe, moving from inert (e.g. rocks) to living (e.g. plants) to ‘sentient’ (e.g. animals) to human beings who are both sentient (that is, self-aware) and abstract thinkers. Me, I have inferred from Schumacher’s hierarchy another ‘level’ of being that is God. And I understand that there is this other level, that there is a God, by two things: by the metaphor of the dog in the library, and by known glimpses at beatitudes.
The dog in the library is an easy concept to grasp. My dog, who is asleep at my side as I sit outside on a windy cool day writing these words, is a bright little girl. She has, on numerous occasions over our ten years together watched me select a book from my shelf, slouch in chair, on couch, or in bed, and read. Because she is bright and she sees me reading, she recognizes that there is something important and profound about a book. When she sees a book, or if she sees shelves of books, she knows that there is meaning in them. However, she cannot read, nor is she ever going to be able to read. She cannot decipher the words on the page, and at best, she can only ‘know’ that the words on the page are meaningful. And you and I, when we gaze into a dark starlit sky, witness a birth and death, are in exactly the same situation. Our ‘library’ is the inexplicable universe of infinite time and space, and a vague notion that our four-dimensional rational world (length, width, depth, and time) is only part of the universe’s reality. We are a dog in the library, and we know that there must be a God.
The second way we understand that there is a God is by our glimpses at beatitudes. The beatitudes are the irrational but real profound experiences that escape all explanation and description beyond the one fact that we know them. If we are fortunate in our lives, we can have, by accident or by God’s own design, mystical experiences that are glimpses at beatitudes. We are allowed a small window into another dimension. We experience God directly, even if only for a mere glimpse. And that is proof enough to justify our faith in God.
Peter’s Thoughts for This Day!